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Letters to the Editor: 5-3-2012


Pete Sorenson was my top aide when I was first elected to Congress and helped me put through the French Pete Wilderness Act over strong objection from the timber industry. I can say without qualification I know no more dedicated and honest a public servant.

He is needed as never before on the county commission to withstand the firestorm flaming on the right that will lead to the degradation of our land, water and air in Lane County. Together, with another strong voice on the commission, Rob Handy, they will hold firm against run-away power grabs like the ones blistering from the right that maligned them in recent months, hoping to drive them from office. I urge citizens in their districts to keep these two fine people on the commission as a bulwark against the interests that will undermine the quality of life in our county.

Jim Weaver, former congressman, Eugene



Whether or not you are new to town, you may be mystified about whom to vote for in the local election on May 15. Are there any candidates proven to represent us, the 99 percent, instead of well-funded special interest groups who often resort to smoke, mirrors, misinformation and personal attack in their campaigns? Fortunately yes, there are. 

Many long-time Eugene residents and public interest advocates such as myself endorse the reelection of four candidates based on personal observation over the years. For example, since the 1980s, the campus and the community applauded Pete Sorenson as he consistently stood with us to oppose the UO administration’s unfair and unwise decisions to eliminate its invaluable low cost student family housing at Amazon and Westmoreland. Those of us supporting peace and justice appreciated his leadership in getting 200 elected officials around the state to sign on to a petition to the Oregon congressional delegation to demand an end to our war in Iraq. 

These kinds of actions and the voting records of Pete and three other elected officials demonstrate a solid commitment to peace, justice, environment, education, sustainable economy and the public interest. Like the League of Conservation Voters, we’re endorsing Pete Sorenson and Rob Handy for the county commissioners’ positions, Betty Taylor for City Council and Kitty Piercy for mayor.

David Zupan, director Progressive Voices, www.progressivevoices.org



Pete Sorenson and Rob Handy both should be re-elected!
 To refresh memories, former commissioners Anna Morrison and Ellie Dumdi seldom were of help to coastal residents. We greatly increased Sorenson’s workload by asking his assistance on county matters.

It was Sorenson who saved our iconic Glenada dunes from development. The lands were in foreclosure, developers were poised and bulldozers were ready to go. Lane County was preparing to auction the irreplaceable dunes, pine forests and a Native American archaeological site. In 2005, thousands of residents signed petitions demanding the dunes be saved. Lane County citizens owe a big debt of gratitude to Pete Sorenson for his outstanding leadership in saving the dunes.

Indeed, it was Sorenson who came up with an innovative solution to the problem. Due to his vast knowledge of state law, Sorenson asked his fellow commissioners to invoke an Oregon statute giving counties the power to place suitable foreclosed properties into their parks inventories. After a colleague verified that state parks officials would use some eligible lottery proceeds to compensate Lane County for the land, the commissioners voted to save the dunes. Without Sorenson’s knowledge, and creating a bipartisan solution, this irreplaceable legacy would have been lost forever. Future generations may never know Sorenson’s role in this, but on the coast we deeply appreciate his talents.

Rob Handy and Sorenson are a tremendous help to coastal residents.

Lea Patten, Florence



In the race for Lane County Commissioner I am supporting Andy Stahl. Stahl has a long record of environmental advocacy and executive leadership running Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. He has worked tirelessly on behalf of education and the welfare of children as a foster parent and as a school board member. He supports open and ethical government, in sharp contrast to the incumbent, Peter Sorenson.

As a parent and grandparent I watched with dismay as Sorenson, his soulmate Rob Handy, and their “book club” circumvented Oregon’s Public Meetings Law; worse yet, when found guilty, the pair continued to deny any wrongdoing and tried to spin the verdict as a green light to engage in more egregious behavior. What kind of example is this for the next generation?

I likewise puzzled over their decision three years ago to resist restoring county jail capacity from federal funds while prioritizing their acquisition of personal assistants at public expense. Would one of their would-be aides have rushed to the rescue if my kids or grandkids needed a cop?

Fifteen years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded legal costs later, Sorenson has had his chance. It’s time for a change.

Teresa Carp, Eugene

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rob Handy says the money for part-time constituent service aides came from an unfilled administration position in the budget, and not from public safety.



Your April 5 Slant column really did a number on Andy Stahl, candidate for county commissioner. His longtime friend Randal O’Toole, a research employee of a libertarian think tank, donated $500 of his personal funds to Andy’s campaign. Although Andy and Randal are of different political persuasions, implications in the “Slant” item were that somehow the two think in tandem. In fact, although Andy and Randal have common ground as to some political problems, they hardly ever agree on solutions. Slant engaged in a dangerous ad hominem fallacy. Here’s what I think:

The position of commissioner is nonpartisan. Andy believes that the job of an elected official is to listen to all voices, ensure that everyone has a seat at the table and, at the end of the deliberative process, make principled decisions with wisdom, compassion and intelligence. 

As a member of the Lane County Citizens Review Board, Andy is an advocate for foster children. He served as a director on the Crow-Applegate-Lorane School Board. He is executive director of a nonprofit agency that promotes responsible stewardship of our water and forest resources. He is particularly qualified to address issues that may soon come before the commissioners, such as declining federal support for the county, regulation of mining and other natural resource concerns.

This is the kind of person I am looking for to serve as Lane County commissioner.

Jeanne Armstrong, Eugene



Equally important as the issues of the day are a candidate’s temperament and character.

I was alarmed at a recent Cottage Grove Blackberry Pie Society appearance by commissioner candidate Andy Stahl. His glib negativity and willingness to make needless personal remarks against opponents was shocking.

Responding to a question about his massive clear-cutting of federal O&C forests blueprint, Stahl brought up a Jan. 26 R-G letter critical of him by local writer George Beres; Stahl dismissed it by referring to an accident Beres had suffered some time ago as a basis for not taking it seriously.

George Beres did suffer a painful, near life-threatening head injury bicycle accident 31 years ago and thankfully he has fully recovered. Agree or not with every one of his prolific articles and letters to the editor, no one can dispute the man’s brilliance. Beres has played an active and spirited role in the cultural and political life of our community.

As a cyclist himself, Stahl surely owes Beres an apology.

Alice Doyle, Cottage Grove



I’m writing to urge my neighbors in Wards 1 and 8 to vote for Steve Mital for EWEB commissioner. Steve is the kind of commissioner that EWEB needs: creative, thoughtful, hard-working and caring. His long list of successes working in sustainability and program development show that he is forward thinking and can get the job done. Just as importantly, Steve’s a great guy — he’s personable, considerate, generous, and the type of person who can bring folks together and inspire them to work hard. Considering all the challenges facing EWEB in the near future — climate change, increasing rates, waterfront redevelopment — Steve has the skills necessary to help keep EWEB ahead of these issues. 

I’m not the only one who’s noticed that Steve will be a great fit for EWEB. The R-G, Mayor Kitty Piercy and two other EWEB commissioners have all endorsed Steve. I hope you will join them and me in supporting Steve Mital.

Matt Peterson, Eugene



Now it comes out in EW that Randall O’Toole, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, is a close friend of Andy Stahl, who is seeking to unseat Pete Sorenson as south Eugene’s county commissioner. O’Toole, who has written extensively on forest policy from the perspective that no regulation is good regulation, has also written on urban planning. He asserts (and backs up with a full load of dogma) that all urban planning is bad and regulation was the cause of the housing bubble. He also asserts that cities should have no voice in land use planning on their periphery. 

Do the citizens of south Eugene think that is a sound position for their county commissioner to take? Do they want to give up on regulating development on the city’s southern skyline and turn it over to the real estate market? Do we want office towers on Spencer Butte? Is Stahl’s proposal to revert to the arrangement of three at-large commissioners that Lane County rejected 30 years ago, a way to further the anti-regulation agenda?

Please, let’s keep the commissioner we have, who has defended the interests of his constituents and all the citizens of Lane County against the influence of Big Money.

Ann M. Tattersall, Eugene



The recent public discourse related to the public meetings lawsuit involving commissioners Sorenson and Handy misses the point entirely. The titles of the respective arguments themselves infer a polarity of extremes that are neither accurate nor productive. They are unequivocally not “corrupt,” as indicated by the outspoken support they both received from several of the state’s most prominent legal experts, and the plain facts of the matter. Although it appears to be in large part politically motivated, I don’t believe they are being persecuted either, per se.

What is happening though is that Lane County voters are being distracted from what should be the focus of any election: the issues at hand and the respective positions the candidates are taking on them, what they have done to enhance the public’s well being, and what their vision of our future looks like.

When these issues are not the focus of the campaigns themselves, and the media’s coverage of them, the principles of democracy are undermined, truth becomes distorted or ignored, and ultimately we become more divided as a community.

I look for a candidate who bucks the popular trend of political strategy in favor of authentic, issue-oriented, and solution-based campaigning. I support those who understand that the most basic element of public office is dedicated service to the people they represent. I support officials who stay true to their word, and strive to live up to the platform they ran on. I support Rob Handy.

 Mary Lou Vignola, Eugene



They may have pretty different ideologies but I think that Pete Sorenson and Pat Farr have more in common than either of them would care to admit. For one, they have both spent good portions of their lives devoting their energies towards law, justice and the most thankless career possible — public policy official. They both have backgrounds that would be sufficient enough for great paying jobs in the private sector but they both have a passion for service. 

Our public officials do not receive large paychecks and they most certainly do not receive much amounts of respect from the larger community. Nonetheless, they have both raised families in our community while spending tireless hours doing their very best at trying to help their constituents raise their quality of life.

Pete Sorenson grew up in Coos Bay and studied law at the Universiy of Oregon before going to work with the Carter Administration, under the Secretary of Agriculture. He then worked as an aide to Jim Weaver where, along with his cubicle-mate, Peter Defazio, they helped Weaver form some of the most ground-breaking environmental legislation that not only preserved our forests but promoted the idea of keeping industry alive in Oregon.

Over half of Lane County lands are owned by the federal government. That means that Lane County cannot collect property taxes from the majority of its land. This would not be such a huge deal if Oregon had a sales tax but (rightfully so) both candidates would never support such a regressive tax. After the northern spotted owl movement of the 1980s/’90s and the Endangered Species Act, Lane County was unable bring in the revenue needed to fund public safety, roads, human services and other services. Sorenson worked as a state legislator to bring back that revenue from the federal government because (right or wrong) it was the federal government restricting our policies that was interfering with Oregon counties to be able to raise enough money for county services. 

Farr, on the other hand, is a Republican who was inspired by classic Republicans like Tom McCall and Tom Hatfield, Republicans who were more concerned with the rights of the people of Oregon and the state of Oregon than they were with the pulse of the nation. He has held top positions in private, nonprofit and public sectors. He has now served 10 years on Eugene’s City Council, has chaired the Council Committee on Homelessness, was the executive director of FOOD For Lane County, has been a member of the Lane County Human Services Commission and has served in the Oregon House. Like Sorenson, he has devoted the vast majority of his professional life to public service.

Right now, Farr and Sorenson are both facing opponents who would like to cut them down because of their experience in government, hoping to cash in on the general population’s dissatisfaction with government in general. I just hope that voters will not disregard either of these candidates for county commissioner because they have done too much service in an unpopular time for that. 

Christopher Anglin, Eugene



What’s missing from most social change efforts is the non-verbal connection between people that comes from the heart, and that’s why they eventually evaporate, or morph into some other transitory, trendy effort. If any movement is ever to become a long-term, significant source of social change, it has to speak to people’s hearts. We’ve been conditioned in this culture to think only with our heads. Thus, our primary issue is feeling alienated, isolated and distrustful of each other. Now is the time to transcend petty bickering and get on with making a world that works for everyone.

Love and forgiveness are poo-pooed as weak, yet we are all in this together. If those who have power don’t agree with what needs to be done to raise all boats, we will all sink together, including the powerful. What would it take to create a large-scale solidarity with others based on love?

What if you started a confidential wisdom circle for sharing amazing personal stories about restoration, healing, recovery, and miracles of collaboration, forgiveness, compassion, joy, and gratitude? It would provide mutual encouragement and support, to allow people around you to help you believe what you know to be true, even though the dominant culture would tell you it’s false. If enough people do this, in a few years, heart-to-heart connections will be the prevailing norm and long-standing social problems will begin to dissolve.

David Hazen, innercom@peak.org, Eugene



Much as I’d love to call the offensive plays for the Oregon Ducks football team, it ain’t never gonna happen. Why? Because I got no skin in the game. So the question arises, why do folks who pay zero income tax get to vote? Forty-five percent of American households get so many tax breaks that they have zero income tax liability. Where is their “fair share”? They got no skin in the game. We need to get our voter qualification cards from the Internal Revenue Service. No 5 percent minimum federal income tax, no vote. So let it be written, so let it be done.

 “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.” - Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835

 Don Richey, Eugene